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THE GLAMOUR OF GRIME

The BBC's Life of Grime documentary series, which began by shadowing local authority rat-catchers and food safety enforcement officers in the UK, has now spawned spin-off programmes in New York and put the behind-the-scenes, often prosaic work of environmental health officers firmly on the TV map.

One of the officers who has appeared regularly in the long-running show - he is usually seen inspecting unsavoury food shops in pursuit of 'meat crime' convictions - is the larger-than-life Yunes Teinaz, principal environmental health officer (EHO) at the London Borough of Hackney.
Teinaz says he invariably receives a warm welcome from members of the public who have seen the show and believes the programme has helped his campaign for clean food premises in the borough.

"I think the series has highlighted the often hidden work that we do and has shown how interesting a career in environmental health can be," he says.

"It has demonstrated that we do far more than rat-catching and rubbish removal and we can help people in their everyday lives across a wide range of issues. The programme-makers I met during the course of the filming have been very fair and professional in their treatment of our profession and cannot be faulted. The series has made me even more proud to be an EHO."

A rather different view is expressed by Tony Lewis, principal education officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which was not approached for help by the programme's producers.

"Around the time the show was on weekly, we suffered a significant downturn in terms of the numbers of students coming forward to do an MSc in environmental health at one of our accredited universities," says Lewis.

"While the reasons for the downturn - from well over 100 applications per university to around 60 - were complex and varied, and affected the entire local government sector, it is our view that the unnecessary concentration on rat-catching and even morgues actively deterred many people from pursuing a career in environmental health."

Lewis says the decline in numbers has now been reversed, but attributes the turnaround to a redesigned website and an updated degree curriculum, rather than to the skills of TV producers. "Many officers on the ground have praised the series," he says. "But as a 10,500-strong institute, we do not feel it did us justice."